Australian prime minister urges foreign tourists not to cancel trips over fires

Australian prime minister urges foreign tourists not to cancel trips over fires
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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is urging foreign tourists to avoid canceling planned trips to the country because of the deadly bushfires ravaging southeastern parts of the continent. 

While making a visit to Kangaroo Island, which lies off the mainland of the state of South Australia, Morrison argued that consistent tourism would be essential to the region's local economies amid the crisis. 

“Australia is open, Australia is still a wonderful place to come and bring your family and enjoy your holidays,” Morrison said from an island that has been hit twice by bushfires in recent week, Reuters reported.

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“Even here on Kangaroo Island, where a third of the island has obviously been decimated, two thirds of it is open and ready for business. It’s important to keep the local economies vibrant at these times,” he said.

Tourism reportedly accounts for about 3.1 percent of Australia's Gross Domestic Product.

“If you want to do the people of Kangaroo Island a favour, book a holiday," said Steven Marshall, premier of South Australia, according to the Evening Standard.  

Australian officials declared a new state of emergency earlier this month as blazes raged in states such as New South Wales and Victoria. The fires in those states have torn across roughly 10 million acres and destroyed more than 1,000 homes. Twenty-six people have died from the fires, officials say. 

Authorities in Victoria have called for residents to consider evacuating ahead of an expected increase in temperatures again later this week. 

“These fires remain dangerous, they remain dynamic, remain volatile, and the conditions we are going to see can give significant life to these fires,” Victoria Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville said, according to Reuters. 

The Australian government said last week that nearly 200 wildfires had sparked after a lightning storm. Officials and experts say that a severe drought as well as climate change has played a role.